In April, 2011 we took our first cruise with Princess to the Western Caribbean on the Crown. It was a dream cruise! So, it only made sense when booking our 25th wedding anniversary cruise we would choose Princess again. What a disappointment!!
NON-SMOKING POLICY: For starters, Princess is not enforcing its no smoking policy on balconies (or at least that was our experience). I am extremely sensitive to cigarette smoke, so when I kept smelling it, I started looking to see who it was. People who think they are hiding don't realize you can see their reflection in the glass on the balconies. It turned out to be the balcony next to us was with a group of people who had also rented the inside stateroom across from them and were using that balcony as their private smoking area. We complained several times, but nothing was done about it other than warnings given. It was truly frustrating since we paid for a non-smoking balcony that we could not enjoy. Management on the ship did not seem to know how to handle the situation, just kept apologizing, and told us they would bring us contact information for customer service, but failed to do so.
GRUMPY PEOPLE: Not only were the staff not helpful, but the passengers in general were grumpy and rude on this cruse. Note to self: Don't cruise the week before Christmas! ;)
ROOM STEWARD: Our room steward seemed new and a little over his head. While he was great at keeping the room tidy, he never replaced toiletries (we had to hunt him down). When we embarked he explained to us that he needed to sanitize our ice bucket and would bring it with ice. We NEVER received our ice bucket. Not only that, our refrigerator didn't work the entire cruise and when we pointed it out to our steward he acted like it was our fault and showed us how to turn it on. He never checked in with us to see how we were doing, not even at the end of the cruise. So we didn't feel the need to hunt him down either with his tip. I would give him a D. (I might mention that I took the advice of past cruisers and tipped him $20 at embarkation thinking we would get better service -- not the case in this instance, perhaps because he was new?)
ROOM SERVICE: The menu was very limited and disappointing. However, the room service staff were outstanding! They were very timely and probably the most friendly group on the ship. I give them an A+ While on board, we paid for the Balcony Dining Experience. Well worth the $100! I highly recommend it!
DINING: We chose Anytime Dining and found out that because we were a party of 2 that we could not make reservations. That did not present a problem, as we never had to wait long for a table. What we didn't appreciate was the hostess every night making it seem that there were no tables for 2 available, but if we were willing to sit at a larger table we would be seated right away. When we would decline a table for 2 would magically appear. I give the hostesses and wait staff a C-.
The food on this ship was not the same caliber of when we sailed on the Crown. I found the food to be a bit on the greasy side. While there was a nice variety, after a while it all started to taste the same. What was out of this world were the desserts! I am not a sorbet person, but found myself ordering the sorbet every night because it was light and flavorful. My husband loved the cheesecake. Food quality I would give a B. Food presentation an A+ because it always looked very pretty.
The buffet was a little concerning since the staff person standing by the hand sanitizer was not asking people to use the hand sanitizer. When we were on the Crown you did not enter the buffet if you did not sanitize your hands.
Pizza is a must when you sail with Princess! They make a very tasty pizza!
The International Cafe is also very nice. Lots of good salads, sandwiches and pastries. The only problem was seating. I noticed a lot of the elderly taking up the seats for prolonged periods of time -- knitting, playing cards, visiting, etc.
ENTERTAINMENT: Princess does a great job on entertainment. We loved the variety of things offered. We also appreciated that the shows were shown 3 times a night, so we were never worried about missing a show we might want to see. We also love Movie Under the Stars! If you like wine, I highly recommend the wine tasting events offer on board! My husband and I signed up for both tastings offered and truly enjoyed them. Entertainment gets an A+
SHIP: The ship is showing a lot of wear and could use a good face lift. I did find it to be very clean. I would give the ship a C.
EMBARKATION/DISEMBARKATION: Piece of cake. They really have it together here! On embarkation, we did stand in line a while, but that is because we arrived at 1:00 p.m. The line moved steadily and our bags arrived at our room quickly. On disembarkation, we literally got off the ship, located our bags in minutes, and went through customs in no time at all. Since the ship lets you off in small groups, we did not encounter any long lines clearing customs. Definitely an A+ here!
PRINCESS CAYS: Nice and relaxing. This was our second time there and I highly recommend reserving a clam shell prior to your cruise, as they can sell out. It is $ well spent. The BBQ they offer on island is bland and disappointing.
CURACAO: I did research prior to arriving in Curacao, so we were on our own here. BEWARE: If going to the beach, I recommend booking an excursion with the cruise line. I read about people being robbed at the beaches and while we were there, a couple staying at a local resort was robbed. While the face of Curacao is beautiful, when you venture far you find poverty. We stayed around the Fort Area (which is nice -- and we saw people couple on their laptop computers so believe there may be wireless?) The shopping is expensive, so we didn't buy anything. What we did enjoy was our dinner at Gouverneur de Rouville. The food was top notch (I HIGHLY recommend the Cuban banana soup!!). I also recommend contacting the restaurant ahead of time and making reservations, we it is quite popular. This is what we did. We had balcony dining overlooking the water and Curacao. It was beautiful! Prior to dinner, we visited the slavery museum behind the restaurant and hotel. I would agree with the reviews I read prior to our trip that the museum is definitely worth checking out! We were amazed at the old relics and artifacts on site. I think the cost to get in was $8 a person -- and well worth it! We were in port at the hottest time of day, so the air conditioning at the museum was welcome. :)
ARUBA: We actually booked an excursion through Princess on Mi Dushi. HIGHLY RECOMMEND this excursion!!!!! The captain did a fantastic job of making sure it was a fun time had by all. I even gave the rope swing a try! My husband and I are not typically people who do the same thing twice, but both agree we would like to go back to Aruba just to go on the Mi Dushi again. It was that much fun!! The food they fed us was also very good. And the free drinks on board were a plus. ;)
I apologize that this review was so long, but hope you found it helpful.